What On Earth Is A Congo Bar?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Brownies, slices and bars are a type of baking that I particularly like. They don't have the fidgeting around of individual scoops, balls or dollops being kept a consistent size and distance on a baking tray. They don't show (one cut up) a slight lean resulting from a temperamental oven. And, best of all, they almost always taste wonderfully squishy, fudgy and more-ish. Which is really the most important bit!

Picture: me
The more commonly encountered chocolate-on-chocolate-with-occasional-other-bits can sometimes be... well, a little chocolatey. Nothing the slightest bit wrong with that, but it can be good to mix it up a bit as well, and things that aren't too rich tend to be quite popular in the penguin household. Not that this recipe isn't indulgent and gooey - just not too rich...

The recipe came via Bakerella*, and is for what are apparently known as Congo Bars. And perhaps, in Australia at least, better known as blondies.

Bakerella gives directions for both a "by hand" and a "with mixer" version of this recipe - I did them by hand, and was very happy with the results (it seems perverse, given the ready availability of a Kitchenaid, but it was so very easy). I didn't adapt the recipe a great deal other than that I used Australia cup measures rather than coverting to US measures. I think, at least with brownie-type recipes, that there's a reasonable margin for error, given so much comes down to how firm you like them in the middle, and the baking times - but for any more precise sort of baking, conversions are definitely useful (and a trap for those of us new to getting our recipes online that I've fallen into before... but hopefully not again!).

Picture: me

This is how I made them...

What's in them**
2¾ cups plain flour
2½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt (which I don't include, unless a recipe involves yeast - which, funnily enough, this one doesn't)
⅔ cup butter, softened
1 lb light brown sugar (or a mixture of light and dark brown sugar if, like me, you like very treacly brownies)
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
11½ oz chocolate chips
(1 cup chopped pecans is optional and was, in this case, left out)

What to do
1. Preheat oven to 180°C (160°C fan forced, or a bit less for the temperamental Smeg)
2. Sieve the flour, baking powder (and, if using, salt) into a large bowl
3. In a separate bowl, combine the sugar and soft (unmelted) butter until they are mixed to a consistent texture
4. Add the vanilla and eggs to the butter and sugar mixture, stirring after each egg
5. Add the flour mixture to the batter and stir to combine (brownies don't like being over-mixed)
6. Stir the chocolate chips into the mixture***
7. Spread mixture into a baking tray lined with non-stick paper (the size tin depends on how thick you like your brownies - I've made these at a variety of thicknesses, but have found around or just under an inch thick is good for this recipe)
8. Bake for around 30 minutes or until golden brown. If you have an over-active and temperamental oven, check them after 20 minutes and they may very well be done - mine usually are (especially important if you like your brownies squidgy - I think this is verging on a necessity, as a non-squidgy brownie is just a confused cake or cookie...)
9. Don't forget to lick the mixing bowl... always worth it!

This has quickly become my go-to, make-in-a-hurry-and-don't-stress-about-it-not-turning-out recipe. Just make sure you have people to share them with, as they're hard to keep away from...

* Whose site I love, and am rarely brave enough to attempt things from, give the combination of their beautiful exactitude and my... rusticness. It's something that a penguin has to build up to...
** This was made based on the US recipe, but using Australian measures, so would've had a bit too much flour - which was probably mopped up by the bit too much butter. That's what I like about brownies - there's a healthy margin for error. Next time I make these, I'll do a proper conversion on the recipe. Maybe. Unless it's the usual baking-at-midnight effort...
*** Bakerella adds her flour after the chocolate chips - I prefer to do the chocolate chips last, as it seems to reduce there being any floury clumpy bits - although brownies are very forgiving in this regard, as well!

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella on September 15, 2010 at 11:37 PM

Mmm these look great! I remember seeing this on Bakerella's site and wondering what they tasted like! I should give them a go :)

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